Posts Tagged ‘Research’
Posted by William Dolphin
When people ask why I’m certain the federal laws preventing medical use of cannabis must change, my answer is simple: cancer. Curing it is the holy grail of modern medicine, and cannabinoids hold the most promise.
The latest study showing the cancer-fighting properties of one of the constituent components of the cannabis plant is out of Italy, where University of Naples researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol, better known as CBD, helps prevent the spread of colon cancer in an animal model of the human disease. Since colon cancer affects millions of people, this is a big deal.
But it’s not big news.
Many, many other studies have demonstrated that CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as its ability to inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids, have a cancer-fighting effect. CBD has been shown to kill glioma cells (the most deadly form of brain cancer), reduce the growth of lung and breast cancer cells, and inhibit the spread of cancer. And that’s just CBD.
Add in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis available by prescription in synthetic form as dronabinol or Marinol, and scientists have demonstrated that the plant holds the potential to fight or prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, lung, uterus, cervix, pancreas, mouth and biliary track, as well as leukemia, neuroblastoma, thyroid epithelioma, and gastric adenocarcinoma. All by selectively targeting cancerous cells and leaving healthy cells alone.
That’s in contrast to conventional cancer treatments that largely work by creating a toxic environment in the body with the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills the patient. And as hard as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are to tolerate, cannabinoid treatments have exceptionally low impact.
Now, to be clear: we’re not talking about a patent-medicine approach that says cannabis will cure whatever ails you, and there have been no clinical studies done with cancer patients that would show us anything conclusive one way or another.
But there is a mountain of evidence that the immune-modulating function of cannabinoids has everything to do with regulating how our bodies respond to cancers of all varieties. And it’s worth noting the federal government’s own National Cancer Institute recently published a guide for physicians that noted the cancer-fighting properties of cannabinoids and stated that cannabis could be a tool for controlling the disease.
Five days of media attention later, the NCI removed that particular bit of guidance, but what we now know about the mechanisms of cannabinoids on cancers raises significant questions about when best to use cannabis therapeutics. Most wait until the disease reaches an advanced stage, and for them the role of cannabis or dronabinol is almost entirely palliative – a tool to ease the suffering and nausea. But we have compelling evidence that cannabinoids exercise a profound prophylactic effect – potentially preventing cancers from developing in the first place.
So will people with family histories of cancer or other risk factors benefit from cannabinoids? Maybe. There are population studies that suggest so, but general results cannot predict outcomes for a particular individual. In other words, consuming lots of cannabis won’t necessarily protect you. Bob Marley died of cancer, after all.
How much might help is a serious question. We know that many of the actions of cannabinoids are dose-specific, but without qualitatively different research, we can’t know how much might be optimal to achieve any particular biologic objective, even if we know categorically that cannabis is non-toxic and well-tolerated.
Will we see that research soon? Seems likely. There’s a Nobel prize in it for someone. Sure, there are political and economic barriers. But it’s a politics of fear and an economics of greed. Neither can survive with millions of lives in the balance.
Ironically, given the vast economic engine prohibition has wrought, cannabinoids are problematic for pharmaceutical company profits, since plants are not novel compounds they can patent for the purpose of extracting return on their research investment. That means real clinical research, the kind that can develop the cancer treatments current studies promise, requires massive public funding.
Devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to cannabis every year may seem daunting. But we already do.
We just spend it on eradication and incarceration instead of research and development.
Research study discussed:
Aviello G, et al. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2012 Jan 10.
ASA’s booklet on Cannabis and Cancer
This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 at 9:37 pm and is filed underAmericans for Safe Access (ASA), FDA/HHS, Medical Cannabis, Rescheduling,Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
By Dennis Romero Wed., Jan. 4 2012 at 1:40 PM
It makes you insane in the membrane. It makes you slightly sharper.
Huh? That’s right. That’s the latest contention about L.A.’s favorite medicinal remedy in a new study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology:
Pot use actually appeared to improve “cognitive functioning” among the middle-aged men it examined.
Researchers looked at a whopping 8,992 men who used drugs, mainly marijuana, at age 42, and then again at age 50. They were given tests to determine their level of brain functioning. The study concluded:
A positive association was observed between ever (past or current) illicit drug use and cognitive functioning.
Reuters notes that ” … marijuana was by far the most common indulgence for the participants” of the study by Alex Dregan of King’s College London.
Hell yeah, said the shaved-headed, 50-year-old creep who still has a bong and goes to raves. In your face, dad.
The study warns that heavy, long-term drug use could still be bad for your smarts and memory. But a little toke now and then with the boys? Eh.
An abstract of the study concludes:
At the population level, it does not appear that current illicit drug use is associated with impaired cognitive functioning in early middle age.
November 1st, 2011 By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Alcohol consumption causes far greater harms to the individual user and to society than does the use of cannabis, according to a new review published online in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the journal of the British Association of Psychopharmacology.
Investigators at the Imperial College of London assessed “the relative physical, psychological, and social harms of cannabis and alcohol.” Authors reported that cannabis inhalation, particularly long-term, contributes to some potential adverse health effects, including harms to the lungs, circulatory system, as well as the exacerbation of certain mental health risks. By contrast, authors described alcohol as “ a toxic substance” that is responsible for nearly five percent “of the total global disease burden.”
Researchers determined, “A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to [individual] users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society). … As there are few areas of harm that each drug can produce where cannabis scores more [dangerous to health] than alcohol, we suggest that even if there were no legal impediment to cannabis use, it would be unlikely to be more harmful than alcohol.”
They concluded, “The findings underline the need for a coherent, evidence-based drugs policy that enables individuals to make informed decisions about the consequences of their drug use.”
The researchers’ findings should hardly come as a revelation. Last week, a just-published study that was completely ignored by the mainstream media reported that alcohol consumption increased lung cancer risk by 30 percent.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, a February 2011 World Health Organization report concluded that alcohol consumption causes a staggering four percent of all deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence. A just-published analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that in the United States alone, an estimated 79,000 lives are lost annually due to excessive drinking. The study further estimates that the overall economic cost of excessive drinking by Americans is $223.5 billion annually.
Naturally, any health costs related to cannabis use pale in comparison. A 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal estimated that health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers of alcoholic beverages than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers. “In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user,” investigators concluded.
In an op/ed I wrote last year entitled “Pot Versus Alcohol: Experts Say Booze Is the Bigger Danger,” I cited the findings of numerous independent commissions, all of which pronounced that the risks of marijuana were nominal compared to those associated with booze. You can read these findings here and much of this evidence is discussed in even greater detail in my book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?
Nevertheless, despite its enormous societal toll, alcohol remains celebrated in this country — American Craft Beer Week is now endorsed by the U.S. Congress — while cannabis remains arbitrarily criminalized and demonized. It’s a situation illogical enough to drive most anyone to drink.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 at 3:09 pm and is filed underNews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a trackback from your own site.
By Raymond Cushing, AlterNet
The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February, 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects.
Most Americans don’t know anything about the Madrid discovery. Virtually no major U.S. newspapers carried the story, which ran only once on the AP and UPI news wires, on Feb. 29, 2000.
The ominous part is that this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice – lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.
The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out – unsuccessfully – to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the “high.”
The Madrid researchers reported in the March issue of “Nature Medicine” that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC. “All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation … Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats.” The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.
The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats’ brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none.
“Careful MRI analysis of all those tumor-free rats showed no sign of damage related to necrosis, edema, infection or trauma … We also examined other potential side effects of cannabinoid administration. In both tumor-free and tumor-bearing rats, cannabinoid administration induced no substantial change in behavioral parameters such as motor coordination or physical activity. Food and water intake as well as body weight gain were unaffected during and after cannabinoid delivery. Likewise, the general hematological profiles of cannabinoid-treated rats were normal. Thus, neither biochemical parameters nor markers of tissue damage changed substantially during the 7-day delivery period or for at least 2 months after cannabinoid treatment ended.”
Guzman’s investigation is the only time since the 1974 Virginia study that THC has been administered to live tumor-bearing animals. (The Spanish researchers cite a 1998 study in which cannabinoids inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, but that was a “petri dish” experiment that didn’t involve live subjects.)
In an email interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. Hence, the Nature Medicine article characterizes the new study as the first on tumor-laden animals and doesn’t cite the 1974 Virginia investigation.
“I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible.” Guzman said.
In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, “We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared.”
Guzman provided the title of the work – “Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids,” an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute – and this writer obtained a copy at the University of California medical school library in Davis and faxed it to Madrid.
The summary of the Virginia study begins, “Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)” – two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. “Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size.”
The 1975 journal article doesn’t mention breast cancer tumors, which featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study – in the Local section of the Washington Post on August 18, 1974. Under the headline, “Cancer Curb Is Studied,” it read in part:
“The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered.” The researchers “found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”
Guzman, writing from Madrid, was eloquent in his response after this writer faxed him the clipping from the Washington Post of a quarter century ago. In translation, he wrote:
“It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again Îdraw back the veilâ over the anti-tumoral power of THC, twenty-five years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration.”
News coverage of the Madrid discovery has been virtually nonexistent in this country. The news broke quietly on Feb. 29, 2000 with a story that ran once on the UPI wire about the Nature Medicine article. This writer stumbled on it through a link that appeared briefly on the Drudge Report web page. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all ignored the story, even though its newsworthiness is indisputable: a benign substance occurring in nature destroys deadly brain tumors.
Raymond Cushing is a journalist, musician and filmmaker. This article was named by Project Censored as a “Top Censored Story of 2000.”